It’s hard to buy a bad pair of wireless earbuds these days, and with constant discounts and deals wherever you look, now is as good of a time as any to splurge on the pair you’ve been eyeing. The market has come a long way since the early era of true wireless earbuds when we had to deal with mediocre sound quality and unreliable performance, all for the sake of ditching cables. Things are much different now. After several product generations of learned lessons, companies like Sony, Apple, Samsung, and others are releasing their most impressive earbuds to date.
You can get phenomenal noise cancellation and sound quality in the premium tier of earbuds if you’re willing to spend big. But those aren’t always the most important criteria for everyone: maybe you’re looking for the perfect fitness earbuds or for a set that works just as well for Zoom calls as for playing your favorite playlists and podcasts.
What I’m looking for
No matter how they sound, what good are earbuds if you don’t enjoy wearing them? Ears come in all shapes and sizes, so the comfort factor is highly subjective. Most of our picks include several sizes of ear tips; usually they’re silicone, but some companies use foam (or both). Again, which you like better comes down to personal preference. Silicone tips are more common, but foam can expand to fill more of your ear for a better seal. The most important tip I can offer is to try different-sized tips in each ear: you might find that one of your ears needs something bigger or smaller than the other.
Just like with comfort, we all have our own inclinations for what we want from sound quality. Some people are bass-heads who can’t live without a thumping low end. Personally, I care more about dynamics, clarity, and definition from the music I’m listening to. I want vocals to ring through naturally and instruments to be well separated in the sound stage. I look for earbuds that can bring out the subtle details in my favorite songs.
Active noise cancellation
What was once a luxury feature is now the status quo. Many of our top picks include active noise cancellation to help quiet the raucous outside world. Whether you’re trying to concentrate at the office or rest while traveling, noise cancellation can be a huge help. However, some people hate the “plugged up” feeling of earbuds and prefer open-style buds that help maintain full awareness of their surroundings.
Long battery life
Most earbuds these days can reach between five and six hours of continuous battery life with ANC enabled. Some models can exceed that (and over-ear headphones tend to last much longer on a charge), but the convenience of being able to just pop your earbuds back into their case for more juice makes the tradeoff easier to live with.
Even if you don’t intend to use your earbuds for fitness purposes, there’s always a chance of getting caught out in the rain while wearing them. At minimum, you should be looking for earbuds that offer IPX4 water resistance. This safeguards them from splashes of water (and sweat), so they should be cut out for the hazards of daily life.
Tech companies are increasingly making their earbuds work best with their own products through exclusive features and functionality, so that’s another thing to consider as you shop around. If you want a perk like head-tracking spatial audio, you’ll need to use AirPods with an iPhone, Samsung buds with a Samsung phone, and so on.
The best overall wireless earbuds
Sony’s flagship WF-1000XM5 noise-canceling earbuds improve upon the previous model with richer sound quality, slightly more powerful ANC, and vastly improved comfort thanks to their reduced size and weight.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 8 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: LDAC, AAC, SBC / Multipoint: Yes / Works best with: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Foam (XS, S, M, L)
Just like their predecessors, Sony’s new WF-1000XM5 earbuds have again topped our recommendations for the overall best noise-canceling earbuds. Thanks to their larger drivers, the audio quality is more detailed and dynamic than before while still retaining the warmth and clarity that made the 1000XM4s so enjoyable. Sony has also further improved its ANC and is nearing the same territory as Bose’s QC Earbuds II. These earbuds do a terrific job of eliminating background noise. Battery life can stretch to eight hours of continuous listening with noise cancellation turned on.
Some people found the WF-1000XM4s to be bulky and uncomfortable, so this time around, Sony has managed to shrink the 1000XM5s by 25 percent. Like before, the company includes foam-style tips that expand in your ears to create an excellent seal — and now there’s a fourth (extra small) set of tips in the box.
The WF-1000XM5s are smaller and more comfortable than their M4 predecessors.
On Android phones, the 1000XM5s support Sony’s LDAC codec for higher-quality music playback. And they’re capable of dynamic head tracking spatial audio through supported video apps like Netflix. But even if you’re not using LDAC (or have an iPhone), these are up there with the very best audio-focused premium earbuds like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 — with substantially better noise cancellation to boot. They’re also capable of multipoint Bluetooth, so you can pair with two devices at the same time.
It’s worth noting that there were many reports of battery issues with the 1000XM4s over time as those earbuds aged, but Sony claims to have rectified that problem with the new model by tweaking the charging algorithm.
The best earbuds under $100
Jabra’s Elite 3 earbuds have a refreshed design that’s more stylish than the company’s past earbuds. While they don’t have many frills or extra features, they fare well in the key areas of sound quality, comfort, and battery life.
Noise cancellation: No / Battery life: 7 hours / Water resistance: IPX55 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: No / Works best with: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
Sometimes all you need are the fundamentals, and that’s where Jabra’s Elite 3 earbuds manage to rise above the crowded field of sub-$100 competition. Their sound puts some emphasis on the bass but still manages to come through nicely balanced overall with very good clarity for this price range.
The earbuds last for up to seven hours of continuous playback, and the compact case holds three additional charges. Their large physical buttons are easy to use, and the earbuds are rated IP55 for dust and water resistance.
The Jabra Elite 3 are the best wireless earbuds under $100. Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
The Elite 3s lack the multipoint feature that Jabra has long been known for — that’s the main sacrifice you make for the price — but in an improvement from past models, either earbud can be used standalone in mono mode. And they’re extremely comfortable to wear for long stretches. You don’t get features like active noise cancellation or wireless charging (though Jabra does include a so-so transparency mode), but the Elite 3s perform reliably with a strong Bluetooth signal. They’re a terrific value for the money.
The best noise-canceling earbuds
With dynamic, rich sound and the best noise cancellation available in true wireless earbuds, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are a terrific pick if you want to listen to your music in peace.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 6 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: No / Works best with: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II are the most powerful noise-canceling earbuds on the market. Of all our top picks, these do the best job at offering peace and quiet from the cacophony of daily life and putting you in a private bubble with your music playlists or favorite podcasts.
Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II are the best noise-canceling earbuds you can buy.
The QC Earbuds II are considerably smaller than Bose’s original QuietComfort Earbuds, and the same can be said of the included charging case — though it unfortunately lacks wireless charging. Audio quality is rich and dynamic, delivering more bass thump than, say, Apple’s AirPods Pro. And by switching to a two-piece ear tip / stabilizer fitting process, Bose’s latest flagship buds should fit a wider range of ears more comfortably.
The best earbuds for working out
The Beats Fit Pro earbuds have integrated wing tips that help keep them secure during runs and workouts. They also have excellent noise cancellation, and their sound has just the right amount of bass and kick to keep you motivated.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 6 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: No / Works best with: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
The long-reigning champ of fitness earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro, have finally been defeated. And fittingly, they’ve been outdone by Beats’ latest earbuds. The Beats Fit Pro trade the ear hooks of the Powerbeats for a new wing tip design that keeps them securely locked in your ears during even the most vigorous workouts. As a result, these earbuds have a much smaller form factor — and their carrying case is mercifully far more manageable. The way these earbuds magnetically latch into the case also means you don’t have to worry about one or both buds failing to charge in the case, which was a common annoyance with the Powerbeats Pro.
Unlike the Powerbeats Pro, the Fit Pros include active noise cancellation. And they’re on par with the AirPods Pro in that department, so you’ll be able to exercise without distraction. When you do want to stay alert to your surroundings, the transparency mode is also as natural-sounding and clear as on the AirPod Pros.
The Beats Fit Pro are the best earbuds for running and working out.
The earbuds are rated IPX4 for water resistance. While that’s not as robust as some other fitness-focused buds, it should be sufficient to survive sweat and outdoor runs in various conditions. The Fit Pros have easy-to-use physical button controls, and although they lack the dedicated volume rocker of the Powerbeats Pro, you’ve got the option to remap a long-press of each earbud to adjust volume instead of toggling noise cancellation.
If you’re an iPhone owner, the Fit Pros offer Apple-only features like dynamic head tracking for spatial audio, auto device switching, Find My integration, and more. For Android users, Beats has an app that will let you adjust settings and see the battery status of the earbuds and case, among other functions.
The best earbuds for iPhone owners
The second-generation AirPods Pro improve upon Apple’s original pair with much better noise cancellation, improved sound quality, and onboard volume controls. The case also now has a speaker that makes your misplaced AirPods easier to find.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 6 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: No / Works best with: iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
For those invested in Apple’s ecosystem, the second-generation AirPods Pro combine an appealing mix of top-notch noise cancellation and refined sound compared to the original pair. As always, they also include numerous features — spatial audio, audio sharing, automatic syncing across iCloud devices, etc. — that make them an ideal companion to the company’s other devices. They’re also the only AirPods that come with different sizes of ear tips for a customizable fit — now including an extra small option.
The second-gen AirPods Pro remain the best choice for people who own Apple devices.
The AirPods Pro have a compact case that supports wireless charging. Setting them up is as simple as holding the open case near your iPhone. The earbuds are lightweight and fit snugly in most ears. Their force sensor pinch controls are easy to get down, and with the second-gen model, Apple added swipe-based volume controls. The AirPods Pro have traditionally ranked among the best wireless earbuds when it comes to voice call quality, and the second-gen earbuds don’t disappoint. Their ANC is improved over the original model and now right up there with Sony, and transparency mode has gained the ability to quickly damper sudden, loud noises that might happen around you.
Where the AirPods stand out is with their Apple-only features like head tracking for spatial audio, automatic device switching, extensive Find My support, and so on. The charging case now features a built-in speaker and a U1 chip for pinpoint location tracking. The second-gen AirPods Pro have better sound and noise canceling capabilities than the originals and retain their deep integration with Apple’s hardware ecosystem.
The best earbuds for Samsung Galaxy phone owners
Samsung’s excellent-sounding Galaxy Buds 2 Pro introduce support for 24-bit audio and have a lighter, smaller, more comfortable in-ear fit than the first Buds Pros.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 6 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX7 / Bluetooth codecs: Samsung seamless, AAC, SBC / Multipoint: No / Works best with: Android, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound terrific, and that’s before you take advantage of the optional 24-bit audio support. Compared to the first Pros, these have a smaller, lighter design that doesn’t protrude from your ears, and the audio quality is second only to the Sennheisers among our favorite earbud picks.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro have fantastic sound quality and a very comfortable fit.
Like the AirPods Pro with Apple devices, the Buds 2 Pro offer Samsung-only tricks like head tracking for spatial audio, auto device switching between Samsung devices, and so on. The compact charging case supports wireless charging, and the Buds 2 Pro have a worry-free IPX7 rating against water and sweat, making them even more durable than the AirPods.
The best earbuds for Google Pixel phone owners
Google’s Pixel Buds Pro are the company’s first earbuds to include active noise cancellation. But that’s not the only thing that makes them Google’s best buds yet: the Pixel Buds Pro combine impressive sound, great battery life, and good comfort — all without the connection issues of earlier models.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 7 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: Yes / Works best with: Android, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
Google finally nailed wireless earbuds with the Pixel Buds Pro. Thanks to their impressive noise cancellation, good sound quality, and comfortable fit, they greatly improve upon the flawed second-generation Pixel Buds. Most important of all, they don’t exhibit any of the connectivity issues and audio dropouts that plagued Google’s earlier buds.
Instead, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver a consistently great listening experience with lengthy battery life to go along with it. They also include multipoint Bluetooth support, so you can pair Google’s flagship earbuds with two devices at the same time. It’s a hugely convenient feature that Apple, Bose, Samsung, and Sony have yet to bring to their respective earbuds.
If you’ve got a Google phone, the Pixel Buds Pro are a great choice.
Pixel phone owners get bonuses like easier settings (the Pixel Buds controls are built right into the native phone settings), and thanks to a recent software update, these earbuds now support head tracking spatial audio. That’s a nice option to have for enhanced immersion when watching movies and other entertainment.
The best earbuds if you own both Apple and Android devices
The Beats Studio Buds Plus offer better sound and noise cancellation than the original pair, and they now come in a unique translucent color option.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 6 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: No / Works best with: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (XS, S, M, L)
Beats’ Studio Buds Plus are an upgraded, better performing revision of the Studio Buds released in 2021. This time the company has made the noise cancellation more powerful while also improving the quality of the transparency mode and extending battery life. If you’re going for style points, it doesn’t get much cooler than the translucent color option. These earbuds are very tiny and rank up with the best in terms of overall comfort.
The translucent color option has a very ‘90s vibe.
What’s interesting about the Studio Buds Plus is that they use a proprietary chip that allows them to support native software features on both iOS and Android. Plenty of earbuds offer companion apps on each platform, but in the case of the Beats, they work with both Apple’s Find My and Google’s Find My Device. You also get simple one-tap pairing no matter which OS you’re using.
The drawback to this dual-ecosystem life is that Apple customers don’t get all the usual bells and whistles that come with AirPods or even the Beats Fit Pro; you lose out on audio sharing, head tracking spatial audio, and other tricks. Wireless charging and an ear detection sensor (for auto-pause when a bud is removed) are also MIA, which stings a bit considering the price.
The best earbuds for sound quality
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 are the company’s best set of noise-canceling earbuds yet, with a more refined design, even better sound quality than before, and support for wireless charging.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 7 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AptX Adaptive, AptX, AAC, SBC / Multipoint: Yes / Works best with: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
The third generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless earbuds deliver tremendous, detailed sound quality that stands above nearly all competitors. They’re a joy to listen to, and even better, they’re now smaller and more comfortable than previous models — with a case that finally supports wireless charging. The active noise cancellation can’t compete with the likes of Apple, Sony, and Bose, but if you care more about lush, intricate sound, the MTW3s won’t disappoint in the slightest.
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds sound absolutely fantastic.
Unlike past iterations, these earbuds come with optional wing tips to help keep them securely locked in your ears. That could prove helpful for running or when hitting the gym. Sennheiser allows for plenty of EQ customization using its mobile app, and the Momentum True Wireless 3s support a range of Bluetooth codecs, including AAC, SBC, AptX, and AptX Adaptive.
The best earbuds for voice calls on iPhone
Apple’s third-gen AirPods have a new design and sound significantly better than their predecessors. They also add new features like head tracking for spatial audio.
Noise cancellation: No / Battery life: 6 hours / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: No / Works best with: iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: None
Apple’s third-generation AirPods have a new design with shorter stems than the original model. But even with their mics now being farther from your mouth, they still perform very well on calls — and there are bigger improvements to sound quality and fit / comfort that make upgrading to the so-called AirPods 3 worthwhile.
Apple’s AirPods 3 are the best earbuds for voice calls and sound much better than their predecessors. Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
Apple has also added new features that were previously exclusive to the AirPods Pro, like head tracking spatial audio and deeper Find My integration for hunting down your misplaced buds. And the case is now optimized to work with Apple’s MagSafe wireless charging system. The AirPods still have a one-size-fits-most hard plastic form factor, so you’ll want to try them before buying to make sure they’re the right match for your ears. But if they are, these are Apple’s best regular AirPods yet by a wide margin.
The best earbuds for voice calls on Android
Sony’s LinkBuds have a standout design that’s rooted in comfort and an airy, open sound. They also excel when used for voice calls, outshining pretty much all competitors.
Noise cancellation: No / Battery life: 5.5 hours / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: Yes / Works best with: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Fitting supporters (XS, S, M, L, XL)
Sony’s unconventional-looking LinkBuds have a donut hole right in the middle of each earbud. This surprisingly comfortable design is meant to allow in outside noise and keep you aware of your surroundings at all times. But it also means that the LinkBuds won’t be for everyone — especially those people who prefer to drown out the world when listening to their music.
Sony’s LinkBuds are the best earbuds for voice calls on Android. Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
But more than their quirky fit, the LinkBuds’ greatest strength is stellar performance on voice calls. Sony reworked its voice isolation algorithms for these earbuds, and as a result, the LinkBuds are several rungs above nearly all competitors minus AirPods. If you’re looking for something you can pop into your ears throughout the workday, the LinkBuds don’t disappoint.
The best earbuds for standout style
The second-generation earbuds from Nothing carry over the same stylish looks, but make big improvements where it counts to sound quality and noise cancellation. They also add new features like multipoint.
Noise cancellation: Yes / Battery life: 4 hours (ANC on) / Water resistance: IPX4 / Bluetooth codecs: AAC, SBC / Multipoint: Yes / Works best with: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS / Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
Nothing’s second-generation earbuds, the Ear 2s, preserve the stylish look of the originals while making big strides in sound quality and active noise cancellation. With their semi-translucent design and unique charging case, the Ear 2 earbuds are sure to catch some attention when sitting beside earbuds from more established brands.
The Nothing Ear 2 earbuds look very similar to their predecessors. Photo by Jon Porter / The Verge
The Ear 2 earbuds also add multipoint connectivity, a feature that the first pair lacked, to let you pair with two audio sources at the same time. The $149 price has gone up a bit compared to the Ear 1, but at least you don’t have to break the bank for the fresh looks and audio improvements that come with the Ear 2s.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge except where specified
Update September 5th, 11:15PM ET: The buying guide was updated with current pricing.